NPR Staff

Rosemary Kennedy was a beauty, a debutante, and the daughter of one of America's most glamorous families. She was born with a wealth of advantages as the daughter of Rose and Joseph P. Kennedy — but her mental development was flawed at birth, and never got beyond about a fourth-grade level.

And at the age of 23, Rosemary Kennedy underwent a new neurosurgical procedure that a couple of respected doctors said might make it easier for her to function in the world: A lobotomy. The operation left Kennedy mostly mute, withdrawn and damaged.

It's a classic story: A man stranded in a remote, forbidding land, left to scrabble a hard existence while he waits for help that might never come. Think of Robinson Crusoe, Tom Hanks and his beloved volleyball Wilson in Castaway -- even Gilligan's Island, for that matter.

Now, add another to that list: Mark Watney, an astronaut marooned on Mars in the new film The Martian. The movie is directed by Sir Ridley Scott, adapted from Andy Weir's best-selling novel, and filled with A-list stars like Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

You can run out of colorful adjectives trying to describe Julie d'Aubigny. She was, according to history, exquisite in appearance, a graceful and superb fencer, a sublime singer, a swashbuckling duellist, and lover of men and women, famous and cloistered — and that's just the beginning.

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And let's go behind the scenes of a show that began just after the Vietnam War ended and premieres its 41st season in a much-changed world tomorrow night.


Apple has long touted the power and design of its devices, but recently the world's most valuable company has been emphasizing another feature: privacy. That's no small matter when many users store important private data on those devices: account numbers, personal messages, photos.

Apple CEO Tim Cook talks to NPR's Robert Siegel about how the company protects its customers' data, and how it uses — or doesn't use — that information.

Set in 1932, Indian Summers is a tale of two communities. The British rule India, and in their annual tradition, they retreat into the hills — with all their Indian servants — to stay cool during the summer. But while the British gossip over gin and tonics, the Indian streets are brewing with calls for independence. The new 10-part British TV drama — about empire and race and relationships that cross those lines — has just had its U.S. debut on Masterpiece on PBS.

People often ask dancer and choreographer Michelle Dorrance when she knew she wanted to become a professional dancer. Her answer is simple: "I just knew I would never stop tap dancing," she tells NPR's Robert Siegel. "I knew it was possible because our masters die with their shoes on. ... You dance until your '90s."

On Tuesday, the MacArthur Foundation awarded 33-year-old photographer and video artist LaToya Ruby Frazier a MacArthur Genius Grant. Frazier's work is set in Braddock, Pa., the small town outside Pittsburgh where she grew up. Built on steel, today Braddock is struggling to get by. Frazier tells NPR's Ari Shapiro why she chose to focus her lens on her hometown.

Interview Highlights

On why she chose Braddock as her subject

Anthony Marra's first book, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, painted a portrait of Chechnya so real and compelling, readers might have felt they'd actually visited that war-torn land. His new collection follows a real painting, a mysterious image of a dacha, and all the lives it touches over seven decades of Russian history.

It's difficult enough to start an orchestra, but Zuhal Sultan founded the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq (NYOI) as a teenager in the middle of a war. She brought together 40 young musicians from different Iraqi cities and sectarian backgrounds in an effort to unify a divided nation. Now, six years later, the Euphrates Institute has named her Visionary of the Year.

Some pretty horrible things befall astronaut Mark Watney in the new movie The Martian: sandstorms, explosions, extreme isolation, even frustrations growing potatoes. It's a series of unfortunate events that's at once highly scientific and very entertaining.

The Martian is the brainchild of author Andy Weir, who wrote the blockbuster novel that inspired the film. As Weir tells it, he'd always longed for some science fiction with greater emphasis on the science.

Editor's note on Oct. 28: Because of safety concerns, Khaled's last name has been removed from this page.

Khaled is one of the few Syrians to have made it to the U.S. since the start of the Syrian civil war. Even here, though, the 31-year-old remains in limbo, unsure of how long he'll be allowed to stay.

For now, Khaled lives in Southern California. When he spoke with NPR's Arun Rath, Khaled spoke of his life in Syria before the war.

Years ago, in the small town of Maiden, N.C., a man named Shannon Whisnant bought a storage locker, and in it he found a grill. When he took both of them home and opened the grill, he discovered something he hadn't been expecting: a mummified human leg.

Most people — one presumes — would've have wanted to get rid of the leg as soon as possible. Whisnant, however, wanted to keep it. Trouble is, the original owner of the limb, John Wood, wanted it back. He'd had to have that leg amputated years earlier.

If anyone has the credentials to write a book called The Art Of Language Invention, it's David J. Peterson.

He has two degrees in linguistics. He's comfortable speaking in eight languages (English, Spanish, French, German, Russian, Esperanto, Arabic and American Sign Language) — plus a long list of others he's studied but just hasn't tried speaking yet. He's also familiar with fictional languages — both famous ones like Klingon and deep cuts like Pakuni (the caveman language from Land Of The Lost).

When Sherry Turkle came into the studio for her interview with NPR's Scott Simon, she left her cell phone outside. "I gave my iPhone to someone ... out of my line of vision," she says, "because research shows that the very sight of the iPhone anywhere in your line of vision actually changes the conversation."

There is a special place in the canon for the truly sophisticated children's fantasy series — Tolkein, LeGuin, Lewis, L'Engle ... and Pullman. This year, the first book in Philip Pullman's famed His Dark Materials trilogy turns 20 years old.

The novels in that series — The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass — tell a kind of anti-creation story, the story of 12-year-old Lyra Belacqua, her daemon Pantalaimon, and their epic struggle against a church called the Magisterium.

The children of admired, famous people can have a tough time becoming their own person despite — and even because of — all of their advantages. But what does life hold for the sons and daughters of tyrants and dictators whose very names become synonyms for evil? Does the name they bear sentence them too?

Human smugglers prey on the desperation of people who flee war and oppression. They've made millions moving people across borders, without regard to safety. Thousands have died, locked in packed trucks or trapped in sinking ships — like the "ghost ships," crowded with Syrian refugees, which have been set on course to crash into the Italian coast.

Today, Noramay Cadena is a mechanical engineer, fitted with multiple degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But she came by her motivation in a place much different from the MIT classrooms: a factory in Los Angeles where her mother brought her one summer as a teenager.

The filmmaker Nancy Meyers dominates a certain Hollywood niche: Her comedies star grown-ups, and they appeal to a grown-up audience. She wrote and directed Something's Gotta Give, It's Complicated, and her latest, The Intern — starring Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway as the CEO and intern at a startup company. Here's the catch: Anne Hathaway plays the CEO — and at age 70, De Niro's character is the intern. Meyers tells NPR's Ari Shapiro that despite some of the scenes in the movie, they didn't actually have to show De Niro how to use Facebook.

In case you missed it: The full audio of Pope Francis' speech to a joint meeting of Congress (at the link above), paired with his prepared remarks and analysis from Morning Edition.

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Kevin Henkes was just a teenager when he decided he wanted to write picture books. He landed his first book contract when he was still in college.

"People used to assume that I had kids long before I did," he tells NPR's Kelly McEvers. He eventually had children of his own, but that didn't change his writing process the way one might have expected.

Writer Percival Everett is a man of the West: the region, for him, is a place of calm and comfort, danger and extremes. His new collection of short stories, Half an Inch of Water, is set largely in Wyoming, where Everett lived for a time and which he says might be his favorite state. ("It's so sparsely populated," he says as praise.)

But the prolific author wrote his new book far away from that iconic landscape.

"I wrote these while I was in Paris," Everett tells NPR's Arun Rath. "I was living in Paris, and for some reason I started writing ranch stories.

For those who have never seen the show American Ninja Warrior: Imagine an Army obstacle course, redesigned by Dr. Seuss and a team of rock-climbing acrobats. Competitors have to thread their way through the daunting obstacles, completing a number of stages before they can hope to finish the whole thing.

Do you keep up with international news?

This quiz will give you a chance to find out.

The wildly successful prime-time soap opera Empire is back: Season 2 kicks off next week.

The Season 1 finale brought in 17 million viewers — despite the conventional wisdom that the days of broadcast television drawing in audiences like that are over.

Antony Britton literally dug his own grave — and it very nearly killed him.

Britton, an escape artist in the tradition of Harry Houdini, had been attempting a stunt Houdini made famous: Britton was handcuffed, shackled, plopped in a grave and buried under 6 feet of dirt.

There's something to know about that particular "Buried Alive" stunt: Even Houdini himself couldn't pull it off. In fact, part of the reason it's still remembered today is that Houdini failed, and nearly died along the way.

In Europe, fewer and fewer borders remain open to migrants and refugees arriving from the Middle East. Croatia is redirecting refugees to neighboring Hungary, even as Hungary says it's overwhelmed — and extends its own border wall.

All of this has left migrants bereft of clear answers and buffeted by contradicting information.